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Keep our wild places secret

This spring there were several advertisements in our local paper by Natural England. These were offering people birding days out including the chance to watch the rare blackgrouse performing in their ancestral mating arenas or “leks” in the North Pennines.

This statement seems harmless enough, but surely these rare places should not be advertised but rather kept secret for the good of endangered species. The most ironic thing about the whole affair was that here was the perfect opportunity to put forward the case for grouse shooting and the need for gamekeepers. It is a fact that if it had not been for the far-sightedness and hard work of the headkeepers and their staff in this area of the North Pennines, the blackgrouse would have gone the way of the dodo many years ago.

The BBC has recently been asking viewers if they know of any wild and beautiful scenic places where it could come to film. I would ask any true country-loving person not to answer this appeal because if you do you could be doing untold harm to the fl ora and fauna of that area.

I remember several years ago when a television crew arrived to film one of the last remaining hidden jewels of the Northumbrian countryside.This area was the home of red squirrels, dormice, roe deer and also some of our rarest woodland birds. But the publicity was a disaster.

The weekend following the showing of this secluded area on television the madding crowd arrived. More than 700 cars converged upon the narrow country lanes, where they were bumper to bumper in a heated gridlock.

Roadrage wars broke out and small children trapped in their cars screamed and wailed at their red-faced parents. The verges, alive with grasses and wild flowers,were turned into a morass of mud and excrement, while exuberant pet dogs turfed out of the overheated cars and busied themselves by coursing the local farmers’ sheep around the fields like a pack of ravenous wolves.

In the meantime, the bemused locals were held prisoner in their own cottages for several days. Needless to say, the wildlife left in droves, never to return. So please keep these last remaining havens for wildlife to yourselves.

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